Be Thou My Vision: Ember’s Thoughts on “Strive” for 2015

Happy New Year! Kate and I are starting off 2015 here on The Sunlit Path with a theme word for the year: Strive. After much reflection and discussion of this past year, we kept coming back to the word strive as feeling “right.” Today I’m sharing what strive means for me in the context of the year ahead, and Kate will share the same for herself next week. Stay tuned! And, as always, we invite you to Come and walk with us!

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So, here we are. It’s 2015.

I’m so happy (relieved?) to see that calendar page turning. I’m giddy, almost, at the thought of plunging right into the new year—icy tingles baptizing the year ahead with a dazzling aura of all things refreshing and shiny and oh-so-doable.

Along with my excitement for a fresh start, however, comes some fear. The fear that comes with having been here before. Of knowing the drill, but not loving the outcome. I know, from years past, how quickly that tingle of excitement fades.

The shininess dulls. The taste bitters.

Life happens, and the things that earlier felt—looked, through rose-colored glasses—so easily achievable, are suddenly…well…not so much.

“How did I ever think I was going to get to the gym 5 days a week with my schedule, plus cut out carbs? I’m as angry and tired and hungry as a bear who forgot to hibernate, and I wonder why…?”

Momentary lapses of sanity. Over-optimism at what we’re able to handle. Rose-colored glasses while drafting our “to-do” lists…goals…resolutions. We all over-estimate what we (realistically) can do. Or how quickly we can change a habit and have it “stick.”

Sorry. I’m not trying to burst anyone’s “It’s still early in January and I’ve totally got this!” bubble here.

And don’t get me wrong, I am optimistic and joy-filled at the thought of this year ahead (truly!).

But I want to approach 2015 differently than I usually approach a new year. Without “set in stone” goals or lofty resolutions that I’ll look back on late in December and feel regretful about, because I failed them. Again.

There are so many things I want to do this year, focus on, STRIVE for…

But resolutions they will not be.

I am not going to do that to myself. To continue to set myself up…to then hate myself. To continue the cycle of self-disappointment.

…I don’t need the self-loathing come Valentine’s Day when I decide to eat a few squares of the Ghirardelli chocolate Drew brings home, because he knows it’s my favorite.

…I don’t need to look at myself in disgust once again when the scale has only inched down slightly (if at all!) by the time t-shirt weather returns.

…I don’t need to keep telling myself I’m only worthy of love and acceptance when I’m __________. (Thinner, more productive, earning more money, working at that job with the impressive title, etc.)

I’ll let you in on a little secret: What I see when I look in the mirror these days does not make me feel very good about myself. I’m world-weary, and it shows. Loss—of loved ones, of my confidence, of feeling worthy— has drained me, wrinkled and dimpled me. I’m worse for the wear on the outside. It’s true.

But you should see the beautiful swelling of my heart when my 3-year-old asks if we can go lie down on her bed and read books together—her favorite pastime these days.

Or when my almost-5-year-old kisses me goodnight and says, “Mama, I had fun with you today.”

Most days, I have to remind myself that these visions of love are what matters, more than my reflection in the mirror.

Still, I don’t want to neglect my own self-care with the excuse that there’s no time for it! Because I’m caring for OTHERS!

I know all too well that the days (weeks? months?) that I’ve neglected taking care of my body, mind, and spirit leave me ill-equipped to care for others fully.

With this knowledge in mind, for me, I think the word “strive” will take on a two-pronged approach this year.

I want to be, all at once, more forgiving to myself—that is, full of self-love rather than self-loathing—while striving to be more, to fulfill my potential without the self-defeating thoughts and excuses that I often put in my own way. I want to scale those roadblocks, jump those self-imposed hurdles, and sprint forward without the fear of stumbling (though I know stumbles will assuredly occur).

I’ll admit it: I have a lot of internalized goals for this year. A “list” (if I’m being honest) of things I would like to accomplish.

And I think that’s good. I think it’s natural always to be looking to better ourselves as human beings. It’s God’s will for us to daily strive to be more like Him—kinder, gentler, more loving, hard-working, etc.

But it’s also why I’m changing my thinking for this year. I’m trying to reframe what I want this year to look like: not focused on self-centered achievements, but on continuing to seek God’s will and peace in my life.

Here’s an example: I want to get healthier this year. Losing weight is a part of that, of course, and I could write a self-focused resolution to “Lose 30 pounds this year.”

But, like I mentioned, I don’t think that’s the right way to frame it.

Instead, I’ve been contemplating what the Lord’s will is for me—to treat my body with reverence and care, to be a reflection of His creation—and have that be my “become healthier” focus.

Making sure I move my body at least a little every day would help support that “getting healthier” goal. (Instead of: Do the Daily Shred every day in January.)

And, it leaves me some wiggle room. Because I know from experience that on Day 3 of the Shred I’ll be sore, and the last thing my body is going to want me to do is that. same. workout. Instead, I could walk for 20 minutes on the treadmill, loosening up those tight and sore muscles, and not completely “throw in the towel” when how my body is feeling doesn’t align with the goal I created for myself.

Nourishing my body with mostly whole, non-processed foods would also support that same “getting healthier” goal. (Instead of: Go back on the South Beach Diet, which I know I’ll get sick of after two weeks, then binge-cheat on french fries on a day I’m feeling particularly stressed out and need comfort.)

You see, if we can seek out living life more like God intended us to live—mindfully, intentionally, generously, and with more self-love and grace toward ourselves and others, we’re well on our way to achieving the right kind of goals in 2015.

As you contemplate this time of new beginnings and what you want to fill your life with this year, remember that those goals—no matter what you end up producing or how you end up performing—should not be set up to make you feel worse about yourself if they don’t quite go according to your original plan. Remove your “self” (ego) focus from the goals and re-frame them through the lens of God’s will (which is to “prosper you and not to harm you…” -Jeremiah 29:11).

I’m writing this as much for myself as for anyone else. My vision so often becomes blurred by seeking the wrong things in life: validation through other people’s opinions, ego inflation and accolades, money or possessions…

But when I step out of my “self”—out of those selfish longings for outside approval—the things that should have my attention easily regain focus.

The following hymn just came to mind as I write this:

Be Thou My Vision

(A traditional Irish hymn, select stanzas)

“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

 

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;

Thou mine inheritance, now and always;

Thou and thou only, first in my heart,

High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.”

My hope for you, whatever it is you’re striving for this year, is that you’ll try to see yourself and others as God does: not only as worthy of love and acceptance exactly as you are right now, but also capable of “…immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…” through Him. Let Him be your vision along this path.

Happy New Year!

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Written by Ember

Ember

Wife. Mother of 2 girls. Bookworm. Coffee addict. Lover of shoes. Killer of most plants. I write for a living, but not the glamorous kind (think: instruction manuals, not New Yorker essays).

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